The 16th annual Kentucky Science and Engineering Fair (KY-SEF) was held Saturday, March 24, at Eastern Kentucky University’s Alumni Coliseum.
Earlier in the week, the world’s largest independent nonprofit research and development organization made its third consecutive annual investment in supporting Kentucky’s leading showcase for science, engineering and technological research among Kentucky’s high school and middle school students. Representatives of Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle came to EKU on March 19 to present a $5,000 community grant check to the KY-SEF, held annually at Eastern. An independent committee of Battelle employees made the competitive grant selection.
“At Battelle we solve problems, and we have a lot of scientists doing that every day,” said Mark Needham, site manager for Battelle at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP). “We think science, engineering, technology and mathematics are very important for our society. Supporting something like the Kentucky Science and Engineering Fair is right up our alley.”
In 2013, Battelle’s Demilitarization Business Unit was awarded a $76 million contract to support systemization activities at the BGCAPP as part of the Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass Joint Venture. Battelle currently has nearly 150 professionals working on site, and that number is projected to grow. “Not only can we provide monetary support, but we can actually provide scientists to serve as judges,” Needham noted. Several of the scientists who serve as judges helped present this year’s check from Battelle.
Dr. Jason Marion, an associate professor of environmental health science at EKU and Fair co-director, provided greetings to all attendees at the check presentation.
“As a state science and engineering fair, we could not ask for a better partner to be co-located with us in Richmond, Kentucky,” Marion said. “When Battelle was founded in 1923, it was founded on the premise of using science and discovery to benefit society. When our young folks from middle school or high school are working on their projects, behind their ideas is often a personal desire to impact and improve the world. These young folks have such curiosity. They are innovative. Like Battelle’s new slogan, these kids believe ‘it can be done.’”
Marion then referenced 2016 state fair winner Mukund Venkatakrishnan, a Louisville Manual High School student who developed a $60 hearing aid for his 81-year old grandfather in India. Prior to that hearing aid, the cost of a hearing aid exceeded annual wages in India. “Is the world going to benefit from the technology and the work of these students at our fair?” Marion asked. “They will, and they already are.”
Eastern hosts the statewide fair every spring, welcoming nearly 300 of Kentucky’s best high school and middle school students to the Richmond campus, which now boasts the largest science facility among the state’s colleges and universities.
“It is only through the support of organizations and companies that we can continue to provide this wonderful opportunity for these students to meet other outstanding students from around the state and compete in STEM and health-related fields,” said June Settle, grants and contracts specialist and Fair co-director.
Settle added that the Fair is also beneficial to the community. “In addition to bringing nearly 300 of Kentucky’s best STEM students and their families to the campus of EKU, nearly half of Fair attendees spend their weekend in Richmond and support local businesses.”
The top winners from KY-SEF are going on to represent Team Kentucky while competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The fair has generous support from the EKU Hummel Planetarium and major sponsors Lexmark, Battelle and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated.